Many will be watching the full swing and listening to the statements of Secretary of National Defense Gilberto Teodoro, named to that post this week by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
Functionally, Teodoro, a corporate lawyer and a licensed commercial pilot who turns 59 on Wednesday next week, is not new to the post he once held when he was 43 years old under the administration of then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
Admittedly, there have been changes in the defense topography, given the dynamics of the times.
But he is returning to the post, with cool, if arresting, credentials, not to mention the full trust of the appointing authority, six years his senior.
He will be sailing across the West Philippine Sea, where China’s growing aggression has been unambiguous, with his eyes and mind glued on the radar screen.
At the back of his mind are the ruling on July 12, 2016 by the Paris-based International Court of Arbitration in favor of the Philippines and President Marcos’ statements the Philippines cannot concede “any of the territorial claims being made against our established territory.”
The PCA voided China’s claim to more than 80 percent of the sea based on a 1940s map.
Manila-Beijing relations have recently been dominated by the territorial disputes in the West Philippine Sea, which has escalated since the naval standoff over the Scarborough Shoal in April 2012 and aggravated by issues including Chinese illegal occupation, and unlawful establishment of infrastructures.
China, which asserts ownership over most of the resource-rich waters, has overlapping claims with the Philippines and fellow ASEAN members Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Vietnam as well as Taiwan.
Another monstrous challenge in front of Teodoro is climate change, since he is the concurrent chairperson of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.
In 2009, when tropical storm Ondoy killed at least 921 and caused $1.15 billion in damage, Teodoro was the incumbent defense chief as the weather disturbance caused widespread flooding in the metropolis and surrounding provinces.
He will not fail to hear President Marcos’ phrasal verbs, who said in one of his speeches that climate change is the greatest threat affecting various nations and that its effects are uneven and reflect historical injustice, stressing “Those who are least responsible suffer the most.”
In 2021, the Philippines committed to reduce 75 percent of its emissions by 2030 and quickly scale up efforts to adapt to a changing climate, setting itself one of the most ambitious targets among Southeast Asian countries.
President Marcos Jr., in December last year in Brussels, also called for “more progress” in the commitment of rich nations to set up a “loss and damage” fund to support poorer countries severely impacted by climate change.